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Rediscovering 1971 

In my previous post on 1970, I mentioned that the transistor radio I received at Christmas was nothing short of a revelation. By 1971, the artists were my prophets and local Top 40 outlet CHUM and its charts, my bible. Perhaps because 1971 was my first full year of tuning in and turning on, I run out of superlatives to describe this extraordinary year in the annals of popular music.

And yeah, I know: everyone believes the music of their youth is the greatest music ever made. Fair enough, but dip into the hundred awesome songs below and tell me I'm wrong. If you're still unconvinced, David Hepworth's Never a Dull Moment: 1971—Rock's Golden Year might sway you. I mean, come on: what other year in rock history has its own book? Now, Hepworth's 1971 is, on the surface, not much like mine. He's a Brit, and as a 21-year-old then, his album-oriented listening overlapped little with that of a nine-year-old Canadian kid grooving to Top 40 radio. Still, we agree that in his words, "1971 saw an unrepeatable surge of musical creativity, technological innovation, naked ambition and outrageous good fortune that combined to produce music that still crackles with relevance today." Right on, brother.

In a more esoteric way, you know a year is special when three distinct songs named "Superstar" hit the charts within seven months. Of course, I couldn't resist placing them back-to-back-to-back on my Top 100, for they showcase the diversity and raw creativity that exemplifies 1971. And locally at least, the introduction of Canadian content regulations (CanCon) that January was to influence the CHUM charts in 1971 and beyond. Canadian radio now had to play at least 30% homegrown music, and as a result a few fabulous obscurities charted, if just barely. (Example: "You're Gonna Miss Me" by Toronto band Wishbone, which should have been a bigger hit and not just in Canada.) In tribute, I've sprinkled my Top 100 with a few CanCon clumps.

As is customary for the early '70s, 1971's charts are graced with some spectacular one-hit wonders. Say hello/goodbye to Ashton, Gardner & Dyke, King Floyd, The Beginning of the End, Wadsworth Mansion, The 8th Day, The Glass Bottle and Daddy Dewdrop. And as someone who heard King Floyd long before Pink Floyd, I should note that at this point I still hadn't heard The Beatles. Fortunately, the music that came in their immediate wake was so stunning that had I known about them, I'd not have missed them much. Nor would I have fretted over hearing Richie Havens' "Here Comes the Sun" (April 1971, #8 on CHUM) well before encountering the original on Abbey Road. Regardless, the individual Beatles arguably peaked as solo artists this year as well, and you'll find all four in their very own John, Paul, George and Ringo section of my Top 100 of 1971.

The songs are in no particular order, other than what makes sense to me as a playlist. A few songs released in 1971 didn't chart until early 1972 on CHUM. Regardless, they properly belong to 1971 and so are included here. For similar reasons, "Your Song," released in late 1970, has been bumped into 1971. In brackets is the date the song debuted on the CHUM chart, followed by its peak chart position. Chart-topping songs are in bold. A few worthy songs didn't make the CHUM chart, but I heard them somehow. Some were double-A sides; others probably charted on regional Top 40 stations I listened to. Come explore, discover and enjoy the sweet sounds of rock's golden year, 1971!

  1. Sweet Hitch-Hiker - Creedence Clearwater Revival (7/17/71, #8)
  2. Joy to the World - Three Dog Night (4/3/71, #1)
  3. Brown Sugar - The Rolling Stones (5/1/71, #1)
  4. You're Gonna Miss Me - Wishbone (6/5/71, #22)
  5. Broken - The Guess Who (did not chart)
  6. Woodstock - Matthews' Southern Comfort (3/20/71, #4)
  7. Draggin' the Line - Tommy James (6/19/71, #2)
  8. Theme from Shaft - Isaac Hayes (10/2/71, #2)
  9. For All We Know - Carpenters (2/27/71, #7)
  10. Sunshine - Jonathan Edwards (11/20/71, #2)
  11. Ain't No Sunshine - Bill Withers (7/31/71, #6)
  12. Here Comes the Sun - Richie Havens (4/21/71, #8)
  13. Morning Has Broken - Cat Stevens (4/22/72, #2)
  14. Don't Pull Your Love - Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds (6/12/71, #1)
  15. Groove Me - King Floyd (1/2/71, #5)
  16. Want Ads - Honey Cone (5/1/71, #4)
  17. Rock Steady - Aretha Franklin (11/6/71, #4)
  18. Funky Nassau (Pt. 1) - The Beginning of the End (5/15/71, #8)
  19. Get It On - Chase (7/3/71, #16)
  20. Resurrection Shuffle - Ashton, Gardner & Dyke (7/10/71, #7)
  21. Everybody's Everything - Santana (10/30/71, #10)
  22. It's Too Late - Carole King (5/22/71, #5)
  23. Anticipation - Carly Simon (12/18/71, #7)
  24. You've Got a Friend - James Taylor (6/26/71, #2)
  25. Signs - Five Man Electrical Band (5/29/71, #3)
  26. I'd Love to Change the World - Ten Years After (10/9/71, #4)
  27. Sweet Mary - Wadsworth Mansion (1/9/71, #2)
  28. Hey Big Brother - Rare Earth (12/11/71, #8)
  29. (For God's Sake) Give More Power to the People - The Chi-Lites (5/29/71, #12)
  30. Imagine - John Lennon (9/11/71, #3)
  31. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey - Paul & Linda McCartney (7/17/71, #1)
  32. What Is Life - George Harrison (2/27/71, #5)
  33. It Don't Come Easy - Ringo Starr (5/8/71, #5)
  34. Albert Flasher - The Guess Who (4/24/71, #5)
  35. An Old Fashioned Love Song - Three Dog Night (10/30/71, #5)
  36. Me and You and a Dog Named Boo - Lobo (4/24/71, #7)
  37. What's Going On - Marvin Gaye (3/13/71, #10)
  38. Respect Yourself - The Staple Singers (11/20/71, #12)
  39. Turned 21 - Fludd (11/27/71, #16)
  40. Lovin' You Ain't Easy - Pagliaro (11/6/71, #9)
  41. Ain't It a Sad Thing - R. Dean Taylor (1/30/71, #21)
  42. Carry Me - The Stampeders (3/6/71, #10)
  43. Amos Moses - Jerry Reed (1/23/71, #5)
  44. It's a Cryin' Shame - Gayle McCormick (11/13/71, #22)
  45. Stay with Me - Faces (12/25/71, #7)
  46. One Fine Morning - Lighthouse (9/4/71, #13)
  47. Family Affair - Sly & the Family Stone (11/13/71, #8)
  48. If You Really Love Me - Stevie Wonder (9/4/71, #4)
  49. She's Not Just Another Woman - The 8th Day (6/19/71, #14)
  50. Treat Her Like a Lady - Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose (4/24/71, #13)
  51. She's a Lady - Tom Jones (2/13/71, #1)
  52. Love Her Madly - The Doors (4/17/71, #7)
  53. Two Divided by Love - The Grass Roots (10/2/71, #3)
  54. The Story in Your Eyes - The Moody Blues (8/28/71, #14)
  55. Day After Day - Badfinger (12/4/71, #3)
  56. So Far Away - Carole King (9/4/71, #12)
  57. Fly Across the Sea - Edward Bear (12/25/71, #22)
  58. Carey - Joni Mitchell (did not chart)
  59. Fast Train - April Wine (6/12/71, #23)
  60. Rain Dance - The Guess Who (8/7/71, #3)
  61. Indian Reservation - Raiders (5/29/71, #1)
  62. Do You Know What I Mean - Lee Michaels (8/21/71, #7)
  63. Superstar - Carpenters (9/4/71, #3)
  64. Superstar - Murray Head (5/8/71, #1)
  65. Superstar - The Temptations (12/4/71, #13)
  66. Mr. Bojangles - Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1/23/71, #10)
  67. One Toke over the Line - Brewer & Shipley (2/27/71, #11)
  68. Moonshadow - Cat Stevens (8/7/71, #23)
  69. Chick-A-Boom (Don't Ya Jes' Love It) - Daddy Dewdrop (4/3/71, #3)
  70. Trapped by a Thing Called Love - Denise LaSalle (10/9/71, #21)
  71. Have You Seen Her - The Chi-Lites (11/13/71, #1)
  72. Proud Mary - Ike & Tina Turner (2/27/71, #3)
  73. If You Could Read My Mind - Gordon Lightfoot (1/2/71, #6)
  74. Jodie - Joey Gregorash (4/10/71, #11)
  75. Absolutely Right - Five Man Electrical Band (10/9/71, #6)
  76. Oh What a Feeling - Crowbar (3/27/71, #14)
  77. I Ain't Got Time Anymore - The Glass Bottle (8/14/71, #17)
  78. Maggie May - Rod Stewart (8/21/71, #1)
  79. I Just Want to Celebrate - Rare Earth (8/7/71, #13)
  80. Sweet City Woman - The Stampeders (7/10/71, #1)
  81. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down - Joan Baez (8/21/71, #2)
  82. Wild Night - Van Morrison (10/30/71, #17)
  83. Your Song - Elton John (12/26/70, #4)
  84. Sour Suite - The Guess Who (10/30/71, #7)
  85. Liar - Three Dog Night (7/10/71, #4)
  86. Peace Train - Cat Stevens (10/9/71, #7)
  87. Tired of Being Alone - Al Green (10/2/71, #8)
  88. Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who (8/21/71, #6)
  89. Lucky Man - Emerson, Lake & Palmer (5/8/71, #7)
  90. American Pie - Don McLean (11/27/71, #1)
  91. I Feel the Earth Move - Carole King (did not chart)
  92. Heavy Makes You Happy - The Staple Singers (3/6/71, #19)
  93. You Are Everything - The Stylistics (12/25/71, #4)
  94. Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me) - The Temptations (2/20/71, #13)
  95. Smiling Faces Sometimes - The Undisputed Truth (7/31/71, #4)
  96. Slippin' into Darkness - War (4/15/72, #4)
  97. Riders on the Storm - The Doors (7/24/71, #1)
  98. Put Your Hand in the Hand - Ocean (1/23/71, #1)
  99. One More Mountain to Climb - Dr. Music (did not chart)
  100. Wedding Song (There Is Love) - Paul Stookey (9/18/71, #7)

The Westbury Wolves Official Playbook 

After the frenzy of the CD release, I've been spending my much-needed downtime watching classic Grey Cup games from the '60s and '70s on YouTube. The '60s games were educational because I'd never seen them, but the early '70s are where the memories really start to kick in. The first CFL game I ever watched (on TV) was the 1971 Grey Cup. We had a new colour TV and rotary antenna, and Dad patiently explained the rules to my brother and me as we watched our hometown heroes, the Toronto Argonauts, snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in a heartbreaking 14-11 loss to Calgary.

Fast forward through a lost 1972 season to November 11, 1973 and the Eastern Semi-Final at CNE Stadium. This was my first live game, again with Dad and my brother. Toronto, having finished in second place with a 7-5-2 record, hosted the Montreal Alouettes. We sat in the Grandstand, Section P, I believe, about 20 rows up. With two minutes left in the fourth quarter and the score 10-7 Montreal, the Argos have the ball on the Alouette 24. QB Joe Theismann, in what would be his final game in the CFL, drops back to pass. He finds rookie tight end Peter Muller open at the goal line—for the game-winning touchdown—and Muller drops the ball. The Boatmen tie the game on a field goal, but Montreal rolls over them in overtime, eventually winning 32-10. (Saving grace? The Als would lose the following week to the eventual '73 Grey Cup champion Ottawa Rough Riders.)

Around this time the neighbourhood kids and I started playing touch football, on the street, with modified CFL rules. For one, your average city street lacks goalposts, so we used the hydro wires attached to the telephone poles in lieu. (They were way up there and we were all lousy kickers, so I doubt many field goals were made.) Said telephone poles, about 30 yards apart maybe, also demarcated the goal lines, so our "field" was a tad shorter than the CFL's 110. A regulation CFL field is 65 yards wide; our street, including the sidewalks, might have been 10. If I recall correctly, the sidewalks were in bounds. Mrs. Shaw's lawn was definitely not, as she took great screeching pains to point out whenever the ball landed on it. (Hey, cool it, Mrs. S. At least we never broke your window.) I couldn't throw or kick, but had good hands and was a reliable tight end. Why, in my 12-year-old mind, I could've shown Peter Muller a thing or two.

All our offensive plays were pass plays. Running wasn't allowed, mainly because it would've been pointless in such a confined space. We mostly played against each other but on rare occasions, we'd challenge the kids who lived east of Bicknell Avenue. For these games we had to call ourselves something, hence the Westbury Wolves. And despite the sheer brilliance and cunning of our playbook (see below), as I recall we got our butts kicked whenever we ventured outside the neighbourhood for a not-so-friendly match.

So gather round, kids, and listen carefully, for Grandpa here is about to reveal the best-kept secret in the history of touch football—the Westbury Wolves Official Playbook. If you or your kids play touch football, give these a try. One or two of them might even work once in a blue moon. And if you've never heard of the CFL greats who are their namesakes, do look them up.

And speaking of namesakes: Hedge, Ec, Birdeen, Kojak, Cyc, Stick, Fuzz, the One-armed Bandit, The Ed, Dan & Don, this playbook is dedicated to you. (Yes, one of these is me. No, I'm not telling you which one.)

  • Mike Eben: Run forward seven yards, then back two or three.
  • Zenon Andrusyshyn: Line up wide left or right. Run forward seven yards, then cut outside.
  • Peter Dalla Riva: Run a curl pattern in the shape of a question mark, starting from the bottom.
  • Johnny Rodgers: Run forward three yards, stop, jump, then streak downfield.
  • Tom Campana: Run forward five yards, cut in sharply for two yards, then cut back out (like a T-shape).
  • George McGowan: Similar to the Dalla Riva, but instead of closing the question mark by curling in, run straight across the field.
  • Rhome Nixon: Run forward two yards. Accept the short pass from the QB, lateral back to him, then streak downfield.
  • Tom Forzani: Line up wide left or wide right. Run a 45-degree slant about five or six yards.

Fast forward, oh, 44 years, and the Argos are back on the CNE grounds, their new home a stone's throw from long-since-demolished CNE Stadium. What's more, the Double Blue are your 2017 Grey Cup champions, victors over Calgary, who themselves snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with a series of improbable blunders. I've rekindled my passion for football and splurged for a season ticket in the cheap seats. See you next June, Section 220! And, um, Coach Trestman? Feel free to borrow from the best.

Photographs by Carol Witwicky. Instrument illustrations and GZ logo © 2017 Grinning Zone Studios.
Album and lyrics page artwork © 2017 Gabriel Altrows. Web design by Vern Nicholson.
Sour Landslide and Benvereens archival footage courtesy Neil Whitlock.
All pages and contents © 2017-2019 Vern Nicholson.